“Fit & Proper Test” Should NOT Apply to Leeds Chief Cellino – by Rob Atkinson

Cellino - here to stay

Cellino – here to stay

There are still rumblings of thwarted frustration emanating from the lair of the Football League’s assorted mandarins, buffoons and early-onset Alzheimer’s cases. The discontent surrounding this misbegotten cabal of power-mad crumblies dates from their humiliating reverse at the hands of Massimo Cellino’s legal team, as he successfully fought their original decision to bar him from owning Leeds United. The League, represented by ex-Leeds CEO and serial football disaster Shaun Harvey, as well as the son of convicted rapist Owen Oyston among other unsavoury characters, was forced to back down and rubber-stamp Cellino’s acquisition of Leeds, amid much grumbling and ill grace. It was always likely that, given the opportunity, they would return to stalk their quarry once again.

The persistent niggle which may yet afford that opportunity is the mention by the appeal judge of a possible imputation of dishonesty against Cellino when the full decision of the Italian court became available. This, he remarked, could once again leave Cellino open to disqualification under what is loosely known as the “Fit and Proper Test”. Rumours now abound that Sandra Lepore, the Italian judge in the Nélie tax avoidance case, has indeed found that our Massimo was more than merely naughty and misguided in his import duty dealings. Massimo’s legal men have been mobilised once more, declaring that the judgement is full of holes and that an appeal is inevitable. Meanwhile, the hapless oafs at the League have been unable to get a look at the alleged full judgement and have even had to resort to asking Cellino’s own lawyer for a copy. As if this mess were not messy enough, another court case is pending against Big Mass, so a further sullying of his reputation is not impossible – probably not even unlikely.

So, where does all this leave Massimo Cellino and his future as absolute ruler at Elland Road? Bang to rights, some would say. He’s been called dishonest, and the fit and proper test exists to exclude dishonest types (though not, apparently, convicted rapists). So, technically at least, Cellino could be held to account once again and ultimately forced to sell Leeds United, with all the enormously toxic fallout that situation would carry along with it. In reality, of course, things are unlikely to be so straightforward.

The most important consideration here and now is that Cellino is installed in LS11, that he is making all the decisions, for good or ill – and that he has already wrought enormous changes at Yorkshire’s premier club, with much, much more change in the pipeline. That much is indisputable fact. The ongoing revolution promises, but is not limited to, the repurchase of the Elland Road stadium, and its subsequent redevelopment, the building of a new training complex much closer to the club, the continuing reorganisation of the football side of things including transfer policy and, for all we know, the ongoing hiring and firing of several more coaches before Christmas (although plainly we’re not one of those awful Watford-type clubs that have already had half-a-dozen managers since August…)

It is the undeniable fact of Massimo being the man in possession that is crucial here. The “Fit and Proper Test”, by its own exacting conditions, is clearly intended to be a fail-safe tool whereby prospective owners and directors may be assessed ahead of assuming control, in the absence of any opportunity to see how they shape up in action. By that reckoning, Cellino should already be beyond the scope of such a precautionary measure. He has been in situ and extremely active – with a high degree of success, it must be said – for a good few months now. The financial state of the Football League’s most illustrious member club has been improved beyond all recognition; the squad has been revamped courtesy of some rather effective recruitment and at least one thieves’ bargain of a sale. In short, Cellino has dispensed with the need for any pre-emptive, anticipatory “Fit and Proper Test”, by the simple expedient of getting in and doing a fantastic job; he has shown that he is a fit and proper owner of Leeds United by dragging the club up by its bootstraps and improving things enormously, in a relatively short space of time. The future now looks bright for the Whites.

Whatever the technical ins and outs of the law, and of the poorly-drafted and incompetently-applied Football League test, it is this reality of the situation that is surely important now. Cellino has moved well beyond any need for “vetting”, an assessment before the fact of his suitability to own and run a Football League club. He has shown his competence and his enthusiasm – his passion for the job in hand. Leeds United today is a very different entity to the moribund hulk Cellino first walked into just a few months back, a club left half-dead by the year on year depredations of unscrupulous and self-serving men – not excluding the current League CEO. Cellino has almost single-handedly brought about that difference, by the force of his personality as much as by the not inconsiderable investment he has made in the club. There can be no more relevant and accurate assessment of fitness and propriety than this; the League’s pettifogging regulations have been transcended by fact and reality.

Should there now be a further attempt to oust Cellino, simply because a collection of prosaic paragraphs and sub-clauses says that there should be, then the interests of Leeds United and football in general would be extremely ill-served. The consequences would be as undesirable as they would be immense; a club of history and distinction could swiftly be reduced from its current state of rapidly recovering health, back onto the critical list, haemorrhaging money left, right and centre, tumbling down the league, with the Official Receiver once again licking his lips with relish. Is this what the Football League, with its implied duty of care, would wish for one of its member clubs? I ask you.

The answer to that last question could well be yes, as many a Leeds fan, pointing to the lessons of history and the various injustices heaped upon their beloved Whites, might gloomily agree. We will have to wait and see what the League, in their extremely finite wisdom, decide to do. But they need to tread carefully, lest they be open to charges of malice, bringing down disaster upon a national institution – just because they technically, possibly, can.

The situation at Leeds today is crystal clear. Massimo Cellino is in charge and he’s doing a good job. Massimo Cellino is proven to be a fit and proper Football League club owner, not least in the context of certain gentlemen who quite clearly aren’t, but who – bizarrely – are not being held to account.

Look at the real-life situation, Harvey & Co, and have a care. You can’t afford to look any more ridiculous than you already do, in the light of recent rather unwise public statements. Exercise a little discretion and leave well alone. Leave United alone. Cellino and Leeds are on the up. Let them get on with it.

48 responses to ““Fit & Proper Test” Should NOT Apply to Leeds Chief Cellino – by Rob Atkinson

  1. Reality Cheque

    A fantastic articulation of every Leeds United supporter’s feelings concerning the FL’s highly hypocritical treatment of Cellino and our football club. I am staggered by the Guardian’s self appointed quest to keep the FL fully up to speed with the Italian court’s judgement whilst turning a blind eye and deaf ear to everything that is now unravelling concerning all the players involved in the painstakingly protracted GFH buy out of Leeds United from Ken Bates and his all seeing, all hearing and all condoning first lieutenant Shaun Harvey!!!! I totally agree that Mr Cellino has done and is doing a fantastic job breathing life back into our football club with his own funds, good will and passion. Leeds United supporters are becoming more excited than they have dared to be for many years and that is purely due to Mr Cellino demonstrating that he is a truly fit and proper custodian of our club. Keep the spotlight on the true charlatans Rob. MOT


  2. Good you mention the Blackpool owner, who also expropriated millions from “his” club to prop up his disgraceful father’s ailing Real Estate chain… and how about the pornographers down at West Ham? Clearly there SHOULD be rules to keep undesirables away from footy clubs, but they should be applied equally and fairly across ALL clubs and not just ours.
    Shaun Harvey helped set the world endurance record for due diligence and excrutiatingly protracted takeovers and STILL landed us with blood-sucking incompetent chancers who are all bitch-fighting each other in the desert as we speak.
    More unfit and improper persons it is hard to imagine, and yet GFH and Haigh leave millions to the good with the club on its knees, while Harvey’s breathtaking incompetence is rewarded with the top FL job? Incredible.


  3. It’s an absolute fact that Signor Cellino is the most “fit and proper” owner Leeds United have had for decades. Harvey needs to check the skeletons in his cupboard, I think he may be chasing something he would do well not to catch.

    In the meantime I sincerely wish that the Cellino era continues for many many years. We have something here, something other clubs yearn for, and something we have deserved for a very long time.


  4. This fit and proper test is a joke.

    What football clubs need is constant monitoring of ALL owners to make sure they aren’t bleeding clubs dry by pocketing off all the earnings for themselves at the expense of the club (and no doubt the British tax payer when they eventually hit administration)

    What we need is forensic accounting of ALL clubs to be done on a regular basis by an unbiased authority. This should be done to prevent owners siphoning funds by various nefarious means such as paying themselves consultancy fees, buying assets off the clubs personally at a knock down price like say the ground then renting them back to the club, entering administration then buying the club back, using parachute payments to prop up their other businesses, you catch my drift.

    Unfortunately messrs Harvey and oyston of the football league have been (and in oyston case still are) actively pursuing such financial wheezes so I don’t hold much hope of that happening.


    • The thing is, as you allude to, they’re all at it with their trotters in the till, and too arrogant and stupid to even cover their tracks. If ever an independent body did scrutinise the running of the League and its member clubs, there’d be dozens of more obviously deserving candidates for expulsion before Big Mass.


  5. RoystonLUFC

    One thing I’d like to attack here is the role of The Grauniad. The selective obsession with our MC is typical of this disgusting rag. This paper has always tried to claim the moral high ground and appear to be principled and above politics. It does so precisely by selectively picking issues that it thinks it can win with ease.

    And with LUFC it’s a no-brainer – just stick the boot in, let MC get his come-uppance then on to the next soft target. This has been the Guardian’s modus-operandi for as long as I can remember. Pick on soft targets and appear principled and morally superior, while avoiding the challenges that might lead to their own underlying unscrupulousness being dragged into the spotlight.

    And many people on here have rightly pointed out the lack of consistency amongst our esteemed moral guardian, so I don’t feel I have to spell it out any further. But the next time we have a dig at the Daily Mail and the rest of the red-tops, we should remember that they are no worse than the pompous, self-appointed arbiters of moral fortitude that occupy the offices of The Guardian.

    How I would love to see this issue fly back into their pompous, self-righteous faces and watch MC rise while The Guardian sinks – along with all the rest of the old fogie brigade in the FL.


    • Thanks for providing some balance – I can never look beyond the Daily Heil as a target for vitriol myself 😉


    • We should all remember the original name of the Grauniad…..it was the Manchester Guardian. No wonder they have always had it in for Leeds.


  6. fergolph the red nosed manageer

    Apparently it seems bates was fit and proper.
    Apparently it seems GFH were fit and proper.
    Apparently it seems Cellino isnt fit and proper.
    Apparently it seems I misunderstood ” fit and proper”


    • Dont forget the krasner group who currently have one member, Simon morris banged up in armley for blackmail. these guys also bleed Leeds dry, and were the first to employ the little toad Harvey


      • Pre-Cellino it’s been a parade of crooks, back to and including Ridsdale. None of them attracted any criticism from the League as they presided over the decline of Leeds United. Now we have a man who is bringing the club back – and they’re after him like a pack of hounds. Anyone else see the essential contradiction here??


  7. Vancouver White

    Great article Rob, and this is a subject I find fascinating for a couple of reasons;

    Firstly, it seems there are several layers of appeal process within the Italian Legal System that will drag this issue out for many more months, maybe 6-12. By this time Leeds could look very different with ground ownership, redevelopment, better team etc, etc, and we could even be playing in the Premier League by then, in which case the issue stalls for even longer. Ultimately, I think this is becoming more of a non-issue as time goes on.

    However, let’s say 12 months from now Cellino is found to be not too honest, and the chaps over at the FL try to enforce the Fit and Proper stuff. So then what? They tell Cellino to sell, but who are they to say for how much? What if Cellino were to pull a McCormack type stunt and say, ‘if you say $100M, then I say $200M! We could end up where there is simply is no buyer for the club, or an owner with so much cash they will pay whatever he asks!

    To be honest I feel for once we are in a no lose situation as Leeds fans, but let’s hope we have the fun of operating under Cellino’s tenure for many more years. It’s just such a good laugh!

    Ian. MOT


    • Cracking comment, Ian, and you’re spot on as far as I can see. It’s difficult to see exactly how the FL would go about enforcing their sanctions under the owners and directors rules, given the situation that obtains. But the prevailing uncertainty, going on and on into the future, might not be all that good for Leeds United either – so many strategic decisions rely upon a sense of stability and continuity, and it’d be frustrating to see progress being hampered and third parties running scared of the perceived uncertainty surrounding the owner of the club. What I’d like to see is the League acting as grown ups and confirming that they intend no further action in the Cellino case as long as none of their membership rules are breached in the ongoing running of the club. It might be nice also if certain lazy and talentless hacks could refrain from referring to Big Mass routinely as “convicted fraudster Cellino” That puts me under pressure to bang on about convicted rapist Oyston and, really, I’m too nice a chap for all that kind of thing.


  8. you might be too nice rob but i’m not , Oyston is a convicted rapist and as such should be castrated let alone be allowed to own a football club..


  9. My concern in all this mayhem is that the FL in all their wisdom, continue their quest for a judgement from Italy to suit their needs … the awaited judgement. However, as far as I’m aware,nowhere in their considerations have they consulted the Italian Football League to ask for their considered view over Massimo’s suitability to be the owner of one of their clubs, Cagliari which he owner for over 20 years. After that length of time, it is very clear that Massimo is a fit and proper person to own and run a football club . Cagliari continue in Serie A. It appears to me that they are prepared, as always, to ignore evidence that points in a direction they themselves don’t want to go.


  10. Uncle Bert

    Lets not forget that Cellino convened a meeting several weeks ago with both Bates and Harvey in attendance. As yet, no details of their discussion have emerged, but knowing how ruthless Massimo can be, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if it was to make them both fully aware of the misdealings his ‘forensic accountants’ have uncovered since he took over the club.

    I have absolutely no doubt that Bates & Harvey presided over a plethora of dodgy deals, and it would only be right and proper for Massimo to give due notice of his intentions to reveal these if and when called upon once more to defend his right to own the club.


    • An intriguing thought! MOT


    • sniffersshorts

      I think this statement is bang on, its let run the sheriff out of town, lets bring a cloud over Leeds united and let it rain, then lets dispand this mighty club, so we Bates and Rabbit caught in the flood lights shafting all I can out of it Harvey can hide in the aftermath, and get off Scott free, if ever their was a crook its this man, worst than slime …. Uncle I think you are right I think he sussed them two in a wink of an eye, I think he has settled something with Bates for good hopefully ….. now where is my sawn off I need to shoot a rabbit …. aka python one rabbit stew coming up, except we aint running away


  11. sniffersshorts

    I heard a line in a song this morning on the way to work, ` I was told my dues where due, I replied I had over paid them ` nuff said the future is bright the future is White. MOT


  12. I agree with the sentiment and the criticism of the Grauniad and in patticular David Conn for it’s pathetic obsession but not sure ots faor to pin the crimes of a father on his son. Karl Oyston may have sucked all the premiership money and more out of Blackpool which makes him dodgy in itself but saying “son of a rapist” is really a bit too far.


    • But he IS the son of a rapist. It’s a fact. And, knowing this – and knowing that his dad is still active within Blackpool FC – Karl sits on the panel that disbars Cellino over a matter of import duty on a yacht. Nobody died, nobody got raped, yet this despicable double standard was applied, by Karl Oyston among others. He’s put himself there to be shot at, and I don’t feel the slightest bit of remorse for joining in.


      • I know what you are saying Rob and I pressume shares were turned into loans at some point meaning Oyston Snr had a financial interest if not control. That’s corrupt and import duty on a yacht pales bu comparison. Just feel rape is nasty shit and Jnr is nothing to do with that.


      • It’s the hypocrisy of the whole situation I’m getting at. If people wish to have a go at Cellino as a matter of routine, then they open it up for nasty gits like me to have a go at people who are guilty of far more serious stuff, but who would otherwise be left alone. Karl Oyston was happy to sit in judgement on a man whose sins are white as snow compared to the grubby record of his father. I have no compunctions, no sympathy, no regrets.


      • Oyston juniors currently squandering blackpools parachute payment to prop up his fathers rightfullyfailing estate agency business. so it is relevant in my book


  13. My bet is that its Harvey pushing some agenda for Bates. Mass must have tirned himover somehow or ensured GFH turned him over and Harvey is working for Bates. Are they monitoring the tax affairs of Allam, Abramovich, Tan, Henry, Fernandes, Glazers, Adhley, Lerner, Kenwright, Delia Smith, etc. It must be costing them a fortune for all the lawyers both in the UK and abroad.


  14. Mark benson

    Rob this is leeds united. Since when have the football league taken facts and truth into account when dealing with L.U.F.C.? herbert chapman is lauded by the football league (also by arsenal and huddersfield) yet was banned for life from football in 1919 through his management of leeds city. Same thing will happen again and again to us by this corrupt organisation. Where’s the fit and proper persons test for them?


  15. wetherby white

    hates a strong word isn’t it and the list of people I really hate isn’t that long- Tony Blair, Dermot O Leary, all Yorkshire born man utd fans, the Muppet show (yes I really do)- and a few others. However, top of that list by a country mile, the human toad that is Sean Harvey. Ever since he slithered away from a then bankrupt ER with his massive (and still undisclosed) bonus, I have hated that man more than life itself.
    The man who sat next to Bates and sanctioned the selling of all the clubs best players while refusing to back the then managers in replacing them properly. The sanctioning of the obscene East Stand building project, plunging the club further and further into debt while the team hung onto its
    very Championship exsistence. A “man” who along with Bates, didn’t have the courage, honesty, skill, desire or ambition to get Leeds back to where they belong.
    An enemy of Leeds United when he worked for us, and even bigger enemy now.
    I thank you…


  16. rubber brick

    As far as I know, Massimo’s appeal will take anything up to a year and there is still an Italian Supreme Court appeal after that. In English law, a conviction for tax fraud is deemed served and finished with after a year has passed of being convicted in court (in this case in April). So, it will be well spent. End of. Arrivedici Buonasera, MOT.


  17. I fear Rob that it is precisely because LU and Cellino are ‘on the up’ that the League is desperate to get involved and will. We’re the only top global name they have and we’re a pay cheque for the likes of Rotherham (sold out, and not by their own fans). No wonder they want to hold us back – that and pure malice.


  18. The football league really is corrupt.

    That’s the only explanation for having our Shaun as chief exec.The man who swore he didn’t know who the ultimate owner of Leeds United was when he was sat next to the crook most home games.

    I don’t think we need to worry too much because as well as being corrupt the FL is also proved itself to be totally incompetent.

    United are back.


  19. Does anyone know what legal opinion might say? Regardless of how we all feel and the moral rights and wrongs, it’s the judge’s view of the legal arguments that will hold sway should the FL ever try and apply the ‘fit and proper’ test again. There are some obvious points: Harvey is in a position of conflict of interest I assume, given that he was our CEO, is he able to preside over this? Has he already made prejudicial statements? Also, the shareholders would be unable to obtain fair value for their shares if Massimo was forced to sell, as any prospective buyer would know that he had no choice and they would not therefore offer full value. How would that effect GFH, for example? They could complain that an unfairly low valuation of the club would affect their financial positon as their LUFC shares are assets of their business. Can a judgement that forces Cellino to sell be enforced when it unfairly effects shareholders that have done nothing wrong?

    Anyone out there have a legal background? Anyone know anyone who has?


  20. Leeds on koh Phangan.

    Great read Rob.
    Lets hope they ( FL ) leave our beloved new owner M.C. alone.


  21. Pingback: If You Love Leeds United, You SHOULD Sign this Petition – by Rob Atkinson | Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything

  22. Pingback: Are YOU One of the 4,221 Loyal Leeds Fans to Fight Harvey and the FL?? – by Rob Atkinson | Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything

  23. Harvey is a sleaze a poacher turned game keeper like Ken the con man Bates !!! OH BUT THEY WERE FIT AND PROPER WERN’T THEY MY F*CKING ARSE HYPOCRISY


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